We’re back to extended recaps at the beginning of the episode for at least one week, which isn’t such a huge concern but does bring back unpleasant memories considering this is Shingeki no Kyoujin we’re talking about. We also saw a significant dip in animation quality (the remnants of Levi Squad riding over the bridge is a potent example) and a generally less focused and compelling tone than in recent weeks. But all told it wasn’t bad – certainly nothing like a return to the ugliness of “Defense of Trost: 325”, just a step down from the very good run of of episodes the show has been on.
To some extent, I think it’s also a matter of where the focus was as much as focus itself. Any ep that relies as heavily on one seiyuu as this one does on Kaji Yuuki is going to suffer when the seiyuu is Kaji Yuuki. Plain and simply, he’s just not a very good actor and any time he tries for real emotion it sounds a bit silly. Apart from that, Eren and Levi simply aren’t as interesting as the likes of Jean, Armin and even Reiner, so an entire episode built around Eren’s internal struggles and Levi mugging for the camera isn’t likely to earn a place on the top shelf. AoT definitely benefitted from an extended turn for Jean and Armin in the spotlight this past month, and while I know it isn’t going to be an every week occurrence I hope it wasn’t a complete aberration either.
That said, once the recap was dispensed with the plot did surge forward more or less satisfactorily. There were flashbacks of course, but flashbacks are fine when they’re new material, and they did help to explain how things got to their current straits. One element of interest is that the cliffhanger of last week – the “cover your ears” moment – was never really explained, at least as far as I can tell. What specific purpose did the sound grenade serve? It certainly didn’t seem to slow down Nice Ass at all, so perhaps it was a signal to Erwin that the squad was close.
What the flashbacks told us (aside from the fact that Hanji is apparently an Evangelion fan) is that Eren seemingly can’t trigger his transformation without having a specific goal in mind. The fact that the goal could be as trivial as “pick up the teaspoon” is a bit odd, and the sequence where the members of Levi Squad chewed their own hands as a show of solidarity quite overwrought and a bit silly. I found the whole matter of Eren’s struggling for acceptance into the squad (“Shut up for a minute!” was exactly my thought as well) and wrestling with his decision on horseback a bit of a bore, to be honest, but the meat of the episode is the female titan, and just who she is. Sadly I know, thanks to a spoiler comment from last week. It seems Erwin’s goal all along was to use Eren as bait to capture that female titan and find out who she really was, which implies at least that he’s not an outright part of the conspiracy itself.
Speaking of spoiler comments, I’m getting pretty sick of them. I’ve stated my policy on this more times than I can care to count and it doesn’t seem to matter, but blocking comments altogether for a series is somewhere I’d really rather not go. At this point – and this applies to the upcoming Hunter X Hunter post as well – any intentional spoiler is going directly into the spam folder, and the sender and their IP adress onto the blocked list. Of course I have to try and do all this without reading the spoiler myself, so you’re still on your own – if you see something you shouldn’t before I get a chance to delete and ban, my sympathies – but I can’t promise a spoiler-free environment.